“Shadow and Bone” adaptation brings in new fans and old

Sarah Manderbach '22, Opinion Editor

New York Times best-selling author Leigh Bardugo has surprised fans once again as her first series, “Shadow and Bone” was adapted to a Netflix series and released on April 23.

“Shadow and Bone” follows Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li), a cartographer for the First Army. When she is sent out into the Fold, a dangerous place where darkness overcomes all, she discovers something that will change the face of her world for good.

The book series upon which the show is based was first published back in 2012, resulting in a complex and interesting universe called the Grishaverse, where some individuals have the powers to control water, wind, fire, the human body, and other materials. There have been two spin-off duologies from this universe and two side books. 

I’ve read one of the duologies but it wasn’t until the Netflix adaptation announcement that I realized that “Shadow and Bone” was the first series I should have read. So I spent the summer reading the “Shadow and Bone” novels and they were okay. It wasn’t the best book series I have read, but it wasn’t the worst either.

However, the show completely blew everything out of the water. The visuals were fantastic. The ways in which they branched off from the books to make the show its own unique media was beautifully done. The casting was beyond perfection. Alina is played by an Asian woman, which is beautiful to see because her race is never really specified in the novels, but allows for a deeper conversation about racism to take place within the show. Kit Young, the actor who plays Jesper, apparently was never the casting crew’s initial choice to play the charming gunslinger. However, I couldn’t tell that at all because Kit Young portrayed Jesper so well.

Some casting choices have sparked minor controversy among fans of the Grishaverse. Nina Zenik, who is a plus-sized, curvy woman in the books, was portrayed by Danielle Galligan, who is more of a mid-sized individual. Although I had that sitting in the back of my mind, her acting was spot on to how Nina acts within the series. She’s charming and lovable and has a bite to her. 

The creators also took a not universally loved character (Mal, played by Archie Renaux) and made him all the more relatable in the show. In the series, he hated the fact that Alina had powers and was toxic in some scenarios. In this adaptation, he really does support Alina and everything she does, and their chemistry was beautiful.

Like most shows, “Shadow and Bone” has its flaws. Regardless, if I had to choose between the Netflix adaptation and the book series, so far I would have to choose the Netflix adaptation. It might be a bit confusing for people who are new to the series to come into it, but it’s a beautifully woven story nonetheless.